How I Handle Motherhood Without Alcohol

by Annie Reneau
mom who doesn't drink
Brandon Bourdages / Shutterstock

Since I had my first child 16 years ago, there has been a distinct movement of mothers toward wine worship. I’m sure it’s always been there in one form or another. My best friend has told me about how her mom and friends would sit around smoking cigs and drinking tequila. But I don’t think it was always as socially acceptable to meme your need for alcohol like it is now.

As someone who doesn’t drink, this has been kind of fascinating to follow. I mean, I get the desire to take the edge off of parenting. Believe me, I get it. I even get the desire to completely drown out parenting sometimes. Motherhood can be brutal, but it’s really the day-to-day, mundane, tedious dealing with basic kid needs that can wear you down. We all find ways not to lose our minds, in both healthy and maybe not-so-healthy ways.

A few of those “Mommy Loves Wine” memes question how moms who don’t do alcohol handle motherhood. I know they’re being tongue-in-cheek, but it’s actually made me think about how I do handle the parts of parenting that drive people to drink.

Here’s what I came up with:

Coffee, coffee, and more coffee.

I have my substance; it’s just not alcohol. My kids know that I’m useless to them until I’ve finished my first cup of Joe. It’s not just the caffeine though. My morning latte feels luxurious, like I’m treating myself first thing. It’s a preemptive coping mechanism.

Coffee shops.

I have no interest whatsoever in going to a bar, but send me to a coffee shop, and I’m a new woman. I have a few favorite spots in town where I escape to indulge in coffee and my computer.

Speaking of my computer, I write.

I’ve spent most of my mothering journey writing about motherhood — both as a hobby and a profession — which also happens to be incredibly therapeutic.

I commiserate with my mom friends.

Like, a lot. Solidarity is hugely helpful, and knowing I’m not alone in wanting to hide in the bathroom some days helps me stay sane.

I hide in the bathroom some days.

Most days, actually. My family likely thinks I take a really long time to poop, but most of my time is spent enjoying the silence. (Until they find me, of course. Is there some kind of alarm on the toilet seat?)

I have a big, ugly cry every few months.

I’m not much of a crier on a regular basis, so when the floodgates open, it all comes pouring out. Sometimes I cry in the shower. Sometimes I cry all over my husband. Tears are cleansing.

I work out my angst.

I mean literally work out. I hate exercise, but I’ve learned that doing it regularly makes a significant difference in my mood and my ability to handle the stressors of motherhood.

I ask for help.

I don’t have any hesitation asking friends to watch my kids for a few hours. We swap regularly, so I’m not just mooching. I also rely on my husband to share parenting and household duties.

I seek out ways to be a more effective mom.

Over the years, I’ve found that motherhood is easier when I have a good box of tools at my disposal to fit whatever stage my kids are in, so I do a lot of reading and research. Basically, I collect nuggets of parenting wisdom like some people collect corks.

I pray and meditate.

I know not everyone is religious, but I also do think most moms can benefit from some kind of mindfulness or relaxation practices to recenter our scattered brains and soothe our weary souls, regardless of whether we imbibe or not.

To be honest, it’s a little odd to be a mom who doesn’t drink. There’s an occasional feeling of “Can I still be in the club if I don’t do alcohol?” When you’re not in that world, it is striking how often it comes up in conversation and pop culture.

Maybe I should make my own non-drinking mommy meme: “This Mom Doesn’t Do Whine — or Wine.” Meh. Somehow it just doesn’t have the same ring to it…